“I had a friend who just so happened to be working in the freezer when I got here and he was able to cut some corners for me,” says AG the Coroner, the Brooklyn-based rapper, about what until recently was his day job in the dead body storage department of a hospital. These days, AG has been moved to a more spritely part of the hospital while also seeing his rap career begin to flourish after signing to Man Bites Dog records at the suggestion of the label’s head of A&R, Roc Marciano. As he readies up his full-length solo debut, Sip the Nectar, we checked in with AG to talk about his East New York come up, chopping it up with Biggie outside of Hot97, and how he rolls tight with Action Bronson.
You no longer work in the freezer, but if you could bring any rapper back from the dead, who would it be?
Biggie Smalls. I was gonna say Big Pun, but I’m Brooklyn born, I’m a Brooklyn boy, so it’s BIG.
What would you say if you saw Biggie walking down the street?
I’d probably just approach him and ask him why he faked his death! It’s been very traumatizing to the hip-hop community.
Do you remember where you were when you heard he had passed away?
I was just waking up. I was in my bed. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining. It was March 9th, and it was oddly a warm day in New York. I put on Hot97; first thing I used to do in the morning was turn on the radio. They were playing all these Biggie songs. I don’t know what’s going on, ’cause you were used to hearing BIG. Then Angie Martinez, I think it was her show that was on, the music stopped and she’s crying and I’m trying to figure out what the hell was going on and then she made the announcement. I couldn’t help but tear up, man.
Did you believe the news at first?
I definitely believed it. Being the source that it was coming from I knew it was true — they wouldn’t have gone that far. This was back then. At one point it seemed they were pretty honest.
Where were you living at this point?
East New York, my hometown, born and raised.
Growing up, did you hear any stories about Biggie from people who’d met him?
I’ve met Biggie on two occasions. One was in front of Hot97. My first job as a teenager was a messenger in Manhattan for a fabric company. They’d send fabrics to like Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren and I’d listen on my radio, on my walkman, and listen to who was going to be there in the morning and just go up there and wait around. Even though we were both from Brooklyn, I had never come across him before. I heard he was going to be there, I made my way over, I approached him, and we spoke for a long time. He was a good guy. He was with Lil Kim at the time and Faith Evans — I guess they were getting along at the time — and Lil’ Cease. We had some mutual friends and were talking about Brooklyn, not so much about music. He was a really good dude.
What were your impressions of him as a person?
Great dude. We’re both gemini so it was easy for us to connect. He was a very smart guy and a great sense of humor, a very witty guy. I understood it completely ’cause we were a lot alike, personality wise. He was the kinda guy who could walk into any room and be accepted.
Were you rapping yourself when you met BIG?
I was in the early stages. I had just begun writing. I wasn’t really putting anything on tape at the time. Shortly after I started with the two turntables and a mic in my brother’s bedroom.
Were you calling yourself AG The Coroner back then?
I was named Agony. There wasn’t any rappers named Agony at the time. Later on, it was like three of them. I was given that name ’cause I rapped a lot about growing up in a hard environment. After that, ’cause I was big into sports and Jeff Van Gundy was the coach at the Knicks at the time, they started calling me the Coach or Van Gundy, that was like my nick-name, then it got cut short to AG and then AG The Coroner. It had nothing to do with my occupation at the time — it was more ’cause I’d bring death to the tracks.
Where abouts were you rapping in those days?
A friend of mine had opened up a record store in my neighborhood at the time, called Basement Mix Records. It was opened by a family friend of mine called Ron. He would have major artists come through at the time: He had Nas, he had 50 Cent come through when nobody knew who 50 was, but we did ’cause we followed the underground. He would bring us into ciphers with other MCs that was established already like Cappadonna. He would help us set up battles around the neighborhood, too. I had to learn how to execute a verse there in one take: You had two turntables and a mic and if you messed up you couldn’t go and punch it in.
Did you find the in-stores with other artists inspiring?
I definitely wanted to be in that position and have the respect of the fans. I’ve never been an attention whore but the respect of an MC meant it all to me. I’m not too big on the paparazzi and the cameras and having it all in the face, but the respect means something.
What sort of productions were you rapping over back then?
A lot of stuff from Boot Camp Click, Terror Squad, Wu-Tang and Gang Starr. A lot of DJ Premier beats and a lot of Alchemist beats.
Were you around Action Bronson at that time?
Not yet. Me and J-Love were old high school mates, but we didn’t really know each other like that. We eventually reconnected through a mutual friend years later. I knew he was heavy into the mixtapes and was doing the Wu-Tang stuff. Actually, I think I ended up getting on the first Outdoorsmen mixtape at the same time as Action: J asked if I had something for the track, he asked Action if he had something for the track, and it was solidified.
What were your first impressions of Action Bronson?
I though he had it immediately. I’ve always had a good ear for that; when I heard him I knew this dude had something special going on. At the time he wasn’t taking it that seriously as well — he wasn’t taking it too seriously until a couple of years ago — but you could tell he had something.
Has being affiliated with Action Bronson helped your own career?
In some ways. Action has definitely helped all of us as far as reaching a certain demographic. His audience may have not known about J-Love or Meyhem Lauren, but in the same light we also introduced him to our hardcore fans. There’s a lot of dudes who surprisingly don’t know who Action Bronson is. Action Bronson is big on the Internet, he’s starting to get big in the media now with magazines and television, but before that there were still guys in the street who don’t sit around a computer and they don’t pick up a magazine and watch the news and MTV. Those are the guys that artists like myself and Meyhem reached first. Now Action’s blowing it through the roof for us all. It’s set everything in motion. Now it’s my turn to step up and prove my talent.